The long-awaited meeting which is a key moment in Ivory Coast’s turbulent politics held on Tuesday as President Alassane Ouattara welcomed his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo for the first time since the pair clashed in the 2010-2011 post-election conflict, over a decade ago.
President Alassane Ouattara met his predecessor and longstanding foe Laurent Gbagbo in an effort to defuse political tensions in the West African country.
It marked the first time Ouattara and Gbagbo met since the Ivory Coast’s 2010-11 civil war, which claimed more than 3,000 lives.
Gbagbo, 76, has leaped into the spotlight since returning last month from Europe, where he won a landmark case at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In the last months of his stormy rule from 2000 to 2011, Gbagbo rejected defeat by Ouattara in a presidential ballot.
The ensuing conflict claimed more than 3,000 lives. After he was ousted, Gbagbo was flown to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity, all of which he has been somehow cleared off.
Opposition parties and Commentators scrutinized Tuesday’s meeting for signs of whether the two former rivals have buried the hatchet, boosting hopes for national rapprochement after deadly clashes last year.
The opposition newspaper Notre Voie (Our Road) said “… the mere fact of seeing Ouattara and Gbagbo together is being seen as a sign of healing and a strong image for Ivorians in their quest for peace and national reconciliation.”
But Gbagbo’s spokesman Justin Katinan Kone urged the public “not to make too much” of the meeting, expected to last about half an hour and to be followed by a news conference.
According to him “this is a courtesy visit to his elder… If it helps to ease the political atmosphere, so much the better.”
A spokesman for Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party, Franck Anderson Kouassi, said “Laurent Gbagbo is in a spirit of openness, dialogue, and reconciliation,”
During a joint press conference, Gbagbo stated that he had urged Ouattara to continue peace efforts by releasing other civil war prisoners. “I informed the president that I was their leader, and you would agree with me that I am out today. They have been imprisoned. I’d like the president to do everything he can to help them “
“Meeting President Ouattara is exactly in line with our way of thinking.”
Government spokesman, Amadou Coulibaly emphasized the importance of political dialogue and the need for continuity.
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